As healthcare is projected to account for a third of new employment in the next decade, we have the opportunity to build health into our society with new models of care and access; address the social determinants of health head-on; and revolutionize chronic disease and mental health.
Accomplishing all of this, however, calls for inclusion of varied viewpoints and lived experiences in problem solving and decision-making. This is how Onboard Health views sustainable health innovation — through the inclusion of change-makers from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
Onboard Health’s blog is dedicated to giving a voice to these talented individuals hard at work creating lasting change in our society. This post, featuring Ashlee Wisdom, founder of Health in Her HUE, is the fifth of a Q&A series — “How I’m Building” — highlighting members of the diverse Onboard Health community.
While founding Health in Her HUE was a culmination of a lifetime of experiences, when and how did the idea start to gain momentum?
I started to build Health In Her HUE after having a really traumatizing experience working within an academic center and seeing institutional racism play out right in front of me. That experience juxtaposed to me being a public health grad student and reading paper after paper and seeing the disparities in outcomes across the board made me angry.
The anger was so all consuming that I had to channel it into something constructive, and for me that was building a solution to help Black women and women of color be more informed about their health, the things that impact their health, and support them with navigating an inequitable healthcare system.
It was too apparent to me that the healthcare system is precarious for women who look like me and I couldn’t just sit with that realization; I felt compelled to sound the alarm, while also building a solution.
The idea started to build momentum when we would turn our articles into interesting, and informative content posts on social media. We would bring health information to Black women where they were already scrolling through for content, and it resonated with them. Women would share with us that our content inspired them to schedule doctor visits, advocate for themselves at appointments, and consider how their work environments impacted their health. Once we built a strong and loyal community via social media, it positioned us well to drive significant engagement with a new product, which was a directory of Black healthcare providers and practitioners. Our MVP went viral on social media and we’ve been listening to and learning a lot from our community, and building on the momentum ever since.
Doing such meaningful but intense work, how do you find ways to rest and reset?
I can’t lie, the rest and resetting piece is something I am still learning, but I’ve been much better about prioritizing rest these days. I completely unplug from work on the weekends, so I can spend time with my family or enjoy brunch with my girlfriends. I recently got a personal trainer to prioritize taking care of my body. It’s important to me that I practice what I preach.
What does Onboard Health’s mission — “building an inclusive health workforce” — mean to you?
Building an inclusive health workforce means prioritizing and valuing the necessity of having people of diverse backgrounds, intersecting identities and lived experiences building our healthcare ecosystem.
How have you seen the field of health equity shift in recent years?
I’ve seen a lot more awareness, focus, and attention on health equity in recent years- which is amazing. We’ve been needing this level of acute awareness and focus for a long time.
The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the importance of health equity, but this is something many people have been calling out for years, particularly by those who identify as BIPOC.
In recent years we have seen health equity brought to the mainstage, so to speak, but it at times feels a bit performative given the current zeitgeist. In many ways, I am grateful for the fact that health equity is getting the necessary attention and even funding that it has been needing for years.
My concern though is that the people who have been doing this work for years, and who have lived experiences tied to health inequities will go unrecognized and unfunded, while those with more privilege and power will capitalize on the recent demand for health equity solutions.
I want to see fair distribution of support and funding going to health equity advocates, researchers, and founders who have lived experiences, and those people who identify as allies, accomplices or co-conspirators.
In The Black Agenda — released February 1st, 2022 — you wrote alongside 34 other experts. Tell us about your contribution to the book.
My Essay is titled “Technology is Not the Panacea for Black Women’s Health,” and in it, I talk about the need for solutions that address structural and systemic racism if we really want to address health disparities. I make the case that building tech solutions without addressing the structural issues that create health inequities isn’t going to be a sustainable way to address health inequities. I also make the case that it’s important to fund and support solutions that are founded by Black women, and I gave shout outs to a few founders in the Onboard Health community (you’ve got to buy the book to find out who I shouted out :) )
Where are you drawing inspiration from lately?
I draw inspiration from my Bible app devotionals, the books I’m reading (currently, All About Love by bell hooks), and also podcasts that I listen to.
What hopes do you have for health equity in the coming year?
My hope for health equity is that we will see more funding going toward founders of color who are building health equity solutions. I hope, and am confident, we will see more health equity-focused unicorn companies led by BlPOC founders. And I hope we will see more partnerships between venture-backed startups and nonprofits that have health equity centered missions.
Last but not least, your bio mentions you love to host ‘epic game nights’, what is your go to game?
My favorite game is Blebrity, it’s pretty much a Black culture version of the game Heads Up, and it’s always an entertaining game with friends.
Ashlee Wisdom is a public health innovator. She is the Co-founder & CEO of Health In Her HUE, a digital platform that connects Black women and women of color to culturally sensitive healthcare providers, health content, and community. Health In Her HUE’s mission is to reduce racial health disparities by leveraging the power of technology, media and community to improve health outcomes for Black women.
Ashlee is a champion for health equity, and is passionate about taking an equitable approach to healthcare innovation. Most recently, she worked for an advisory firm, Junto Health, where she was the Program Director for the Strategic Ventures Group, an exclusive consortium of nationally-ranked health systems investing in health technology. Earlier in her career, Ashlee managed the recruitment and regulatory activities of a large-scale clinical trial at Weill Cornell Medicine. Prior to that role, Ashlee worked for a Federally Qualified Health Center, identifying and securing federal, state, and private funding, and establishing strong relationships between the health center and local community organizations and foundations. Ashlee also served as the Assistant Director of Grants Management in the Office of Population Health at NYC Health + Hospitals.
Wisdom received her BS from Howard University, and her Master of Public Health with a focus in Healthcare Policy & Management from New York University. She was named a 2021 Top 50 in digital health by Rock Health for her health equity advocacy. Ashlee is a 2022 Aspen Institute Healthy Communities Fellow, furthering her commitment to advocate for health equity in digital health.